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‘Hits’ charged to Burnett

Yankees starter lacking control

Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland has some pointers for A.J. Burnett after a simulated game. Yankees pitching coach Dave Eiland has some pointers for A.J. Burnett after a simulated game. (Kathy Willens/Associated Press)
By Ronald Blum
Associated Press / October 14, 2010

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NEW YORK — A.J. Burnett got on the mound and plunked Greg Golson on an arm. Then he whacked Austin Kearns.

Burnett’s simulated game was a hit — twice — yesterday as he prepared for his start against Texas in the American League Championship Series.

“It’s different when they’re our guys. They know I didn’t mean to do it. But it’s still not a good feeling,’’ the struggling starter said.

Burnett was dropped from the Yankees’ rotation for the ALDS against Minnesota. But manager Joe Girardi doesn’t want to bring back CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes on short rest for the latter part of the best-of-seven series against the Rangers, which starts tomorrow in Texas.

So Burnett will start Game 4, his first game action since Oct. 2. He threw 80 pitches in the simulated game, with Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland watching part of it from behind the mound.

Thwack!

Not exactly how Burnett wanted to start.

“At the same time, you see how it works even for our guys. From then on out, nobody wanted to stand up there,’’ Burnett said. “I can use that for my advantage.’’

Both hit batters came on sliders away, a pitch Burnett said he doesn’t use very often during games.

“It kind of grazed,’’ Kearns said. “It wasn’t anything.’’

Burnett was 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA during the regular season, but just 4-13 with a 6.48 ERA over the final four months and 1-7 from Aug. 1 on.

He threw his simulated game to Francisco Cervelli. Last year, Jose Molina caught Burnett’s five postseason starts instead of Jorge Posada, and Cervelli could wind up behind the plate for Burnett’s start against the Rangers. Burnett had a 4.66 ERA in the 129 1/3 innings Cervelli caught during the 2010 season, down from a 7.28 ERA in the 38 1/3 innings he threw to Posada, according to STATS LLC.

Given his season, Burnett will be fortunate to be pitching to anyone at this time of year.

“My past couple of bullpens have been 20 pitches at the max. So it was good to be out there and get fatigued toward the end and work through it,’’ he said. “The curveball was great, I thought, today, and I threw some great changeups, too. I felt a little off on the stretch in the beginning, but a couple innings later I threw a whole inning out of the stretch, so it caught up with me.’’

The Yankees announced that after Sabathia starts tomorrow night’s opener, Hughes will pitch Game 2. Pettitte moves back to Game 3 and then Burnett.

The Yankees went with Sabathia, Pettitte, and Hughes in their first-round sweep over Minnesota.

One reason for the change was so the Yankees don’t have two lefthanded starters, Sabathia and Pettitte, going in consecutive games.

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